Murder trial pivots to Kirby; Severance’s relationship with son’ s mother explored

FAIRFAX, Va. — A forensic pathologist testified Wednesday that transportation planner Ron Kirby didn’t die instantly after he was shot at least three times on Nov. 11, 2013.

Kirby was shot twice in the chest and one of the bullets pierced both of his lungs. Another bullet hit his hips. His fingers were also injured in the shooting but it was unclear how, Dr. Jocelyn Posthumus testified during the fourth full day of testimony in the triple murder trial of Charles Severance. Severance is charged with killing Kirby, Ruthanne Lodato and Nancy Dunning between 2003 and 2014.

She said he was shot at a “minimum” of three times. She pulled three .22-caliber bullets out of his remains.

Police recovered two additional bullets at the house.

Kirby’s son, Joe Kirby, testified earlier in the day about finding his father in the living room of their Alexandria house. He called 911 and paramedics initially didn’t see the small bullet wounds.

Investigators found no signs of forced entry and nothing in the home was tampered with or stolen. Palm prints and fingerprints found did not point to Severance. No DNA evidence was found.

Plumber describes seeing a man near the Kirby home

A plumber who was supposed to fix a sink at Ron Kirby’s home the morning he died testified that he saw a white man walking near the home.

Daniel L. Petrillo had spoke with Kirby by phone before arriving to the Elm Street house. But when he arrived about 15 minutes later, no one answered the door or the phone.

He told the jury that before he arrived at the house, he saw a white man wearing an oversized flannel jacket walking near Kirby’s home. He said he was “80 percent sure” it was Charles Severance.

But Petrillo didn’t tell police about that encounter until a month before Severance’s trial was set to begin, according to Severance’s defense team.

He said didn’t see a photo of Severance until this summer, when his sister showed him a news article about the case.

Prosecutors move on to Kirby’s fatal shooting

Ron Kirby’s widow Anne Gray Haynes testified briefly Wednesday telling the jury that she had gone for a walk and then went to a doctor’s appointment the day her husband was killed in November 2011.

Her voice trembled as she identified a photo of her late husband.

Kirby, who worked for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, lived about a mile from Ruthanne Lodato and like Lodato he was shot at the front door to his home. Prosecutors have said that nothing was touched or stolen from inside the house.

His son, Joe Kirby, found him bleeding from the mouth. Paramedics thought he had suffered a heart attack before discovering the tiny bullet wounds and declared him dead at the house.

He was shot in the hip, fingers and chest and police recovered five bullets — the same type of ammunition used in both Lodato and Nancy Dunning’s murders, prosecutors have said previously.

Until today, the evidence presented came from the investigation into Lodato’s death. Her death provided police with evidence and leads that investigators believe link together all three killings.


Mother of Severance’s son received ‘frightening’ letters

The mother of Charles Severance’s son says she received threatening letters from the man who is now charged with the murders of three Alexandria residents.

Wearing a blue coat, Tamela Nichols spoke softly on the stand and gazed in Severance’s direction while the attorneys conferred with the Judge Randy Bellows.

The met dancing and later she learned she was pregnant with his child. Nichols said she lived with Severance for a short time after she gave birth to their son. They never married. Shortly after she moved out, the custody battle began.

Severance lost custody in a court case that originated in Alexandria about 2000 and eventually went to the Virginia Court of Appeals. And Nichols says for nine years after that, he wrote her letters that she described as frightening and threatening.

But he also sent letters to her parents, their son Levite and to her work.

Prosecutors submitted some of the letters into evidence.

Prosecutors say that losing custody of his son triggered Severance’s hatred for law enforcement, courts and public officials. His hatred grew over the years, even as he continued to restore his parental rights, and served as his motivation for killing three Alexandria resident with deep ties to the community.

Nancy Dunning’s husband served as the city’s sheriff. Ron Kirby was a well-respected regional transportation planner. And Ruthanne Lodato’s sibling was an Alexandria judge.

Card game found in Severance’s car

The fourth day of testimony in the Charles Severance murder trial began with the items investigators found inside his car when he was arrested in West Virginia.

The search turned up a gun cleaning kit, but no gun. Investigators also found $1,700 in cash, a Bible, latex rubber gloves and Severance’s passport, an FBI specialist and an Alexandria detective testified.

Police also found a card game Severance created called “Mental Disorder.” This game is a key piece of evidence for the defense, which aims to prove to jurors that many of Severance’s seemingly violent writings were really about the creation of this and other games.

Severance is charged with killing Ruthanne Lodato, Ron Kirby and Nancy Dunning between 2003 and 2014.

After Lodato’s killing, tips led police to Severance. He was arrested at a public library in Wheeling, West Virginia, where he traveled after his then girlfriend kicked him out of her Ashburn home, on a gun charge out of Loudoun County.

Severance’s vehicle provides another key clue for prosecutors, who argue his red Ford Escort is the very same car seen leaving Lodato’s neighborhood on the day she was killed.

WTOP’s Megan Cloherty contributed to this report from Fairfax. Amanda Iacone contributed from Washington.

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